New Movie Releases to Open Thursdays Instead of Fridays in Italy

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ROME -- The weekend will begin early for film lovers in Italy starting this week, when films will open nationwide on Thursday rather than Friday.

ANICA, the Italian audiovisual industry association, announced Tuesday that starting this week, distributors and most exhibitors have agreed to start the weekend rollout of films start a day early. According to Richard Borg, ANICA president and the head of Universal Studios-Italy, the reasoning was to give a longer lead-in to the weekend that could help ticket sales on Friday and Saturday.

“We made this decision to boost ticket sales for Thursdays in a way that could contribute to growing the overall market by creating what amounts to a longer weekend,” Borg said in a statement.

In addition to moving the release date forward, the plan also calls for tickets for Wednesday screenings to be sold at a reduced price.

It is not immediately clear how the new changes will impact the scheduled Italian releases for international films already on the calendar to take place on Fridays. In many cases, those releases are coordinated with releases on other countries months in advance.

The changes come as Italy’s moribund film sector is starting to show new signs of life. After declining all year compared to the same months in 2010 and 2011, ticket sales in September were 37 percent higher than in the year ago period, with 8.3 million tickets sold compared to 6.2 million in September 2011. Overall receipts were €56.8 million ($73.8 million), compared to €40.6 million ($52.8 million) a year ago, according to cinema monitoring company Cinetel.

September is traditionally a slow month in Italy, with moviegoers often slow to return to cinemas after the August vacations, but this year can boast the strongest September in five years.

That said, the sector’s performance over the first nine months was still down compared to last year, with ticket sales 13.2 percent lower and overall receipts 11.1 percent lower than the same nine-month period in 2011. If the sector loses ground compared to last year it will be the third consecutive year of decline.

But industry officials -- Cinema Exhibitors Association, ANEC, and the National Association of Multiplex Operators, ANEM, also support the move -- say they are holding onto hope that moving the national release date for films opening in Italy will help nudge the sector’s recovery forward.

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